Politics & Government

State revenue falls $23 million short of estimate for October

Kansas State Capitol, Statehouse, Capitol Dome Topeka
Kansas State Capitol, Statehouse, Capitol Dome Topeka File photo

In the final monthly income report before Tuesday’s election for governor, state tax revenue for October was $23 million below estimates – and $27.7 million below the same month last year.

The latest blow to the state budget comes on the heels of a September report that showed that month’s revenue fell $21 million short of estimates and was $25.4 million less than had been collected in September 2013.

For the fiscal year that began in July, year-to-date revenue is down a total of $46.5 million to estimates and $47.2 million to last year, the report said.

The budget numbers come four days before voters will go to the polls in an election where the state’s economic and tax policies have been a major issue.

And that’s not good news for incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback, who is in a close race against House Minority Leader Paul Davis, said Robert Beatty, professor of political science at Washburn University in Topeka.

“It’s bad news and bad timing for Brownback,” Beatty said.

In the final days of a campaign, most of the candidates’ messages have already been sent and there’s usually little news to report beyond polling numbers.

“This (revenue report) is a straight news story that does benefit Davis because it falls into the narrative that he’s been saying throughout the campaign,” Beatty said.

Davis said of the new numbers: “The evidence just keeps piling up that the Brownback economic experiment is really hurting our state.”

He said it’s uncertain whether the tax shortfalls will force midyear budget cuts.

“What we know for certain is this path is just leading the state deep into debt,” Davis said. “And that is going to just result in more cuts to schools, more money taken out of our transportation program and other vital state services being jeopardized.”

Brownback and his allies in the Legislature have banked on tax cuts – especially for about 190,000 business owners who have been exempted from paying state income tax – to boost jobs and spur development to generate more income for state government.

Personal income tax led the October decline in state revenue, down $26.7 million to estimates and $33.7 million from last year.

Brownback is on the campaign trail and a spokesman deferred comment, saying that he was not sure if the campaign would issue any statement on the revenue numbers.

Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, said in a statement accompanying the release of the numbers that he thinks the state will be able to compensate for reduced revenue by improving efficiency. He said the state can reap savings from wellness and health-care services, refinancing of state bonds and improved information technology standards.

While the October tax income was 5.2 percent below estimate and 6.2 percent below last October, the year-to-date number is down just 2.6 percent, he said.

“A 2.6 percent revenue variance ... is certainly manageable through good fiscal governance,” Sullivan said. “Moving forward, the Kansas economy shows signs of growth and we will continue to protect core services and invest in education while finding efficiencies in state government without cutting services.”

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.